How 'No Smoking' Signs Help Your Health

Public smoking bans may reduce overall harms of passive smoke exposure

(RxWiki News) For nonsmokers, "No Smoking" signs may fade into the background. But those little signs might make a big difference in their health.

That's because reduced exposure to secondhand smoke in countries with anti-public smoking legislation was tied to reduced rates of heart disease in nonsmokers, according to a new study.

"The current evidence provides more robust support for the previous conclusions that the introduction of national legislative smoking bans does lead to improved health outcomes through a reduction in secondhand smoke exposure for countries and their populations," said study author Cecily Kelleher, MD, of University College in Ireland, in a press release.

Smoking tobacco has been tied to numerous health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and various types of cancer. When nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke, their health could also suffer.

To combat that problem, Ireland adopted national legislation to ban indoor smoking in all public places in 2004. Many other countries followed, although some didn't issue such wide-reaching public smoking bans.

To study the health effects of these public smoking bans, Dr. Kelleher and team looked at 77 related studies that covered 21 countries. These countries included Ireland, the US, Canada, the UK and Spain.

Forty-four of these studies addressed public smoking bans and heart disease rates. Thirty-three found that, after public smoking bans were introduced, heart disease rates in the specific study populations dropped.

But those populations included both smokers and nonsmokers — what about just nonsmokers? Dr. Kelleher and colleagues found that this group saw the greatest decrease in hospitalizations for heart disease after public smoking bans were introduced.

While these findings may garner a cheer from the anti-smoking crowd, this research is by no means definitive. Other factors not included in this study might have intervened, such as increased exercise rates or healthier eating.

Still, these initial findings are compelling, Dr. Kelleher said. She called for more research on the subject.

"We now need research on the continued longer-term impact of smoking bans on the health outcomes of specific sub-groups of the population, such as young children, disadvantaged and minority groups," Dr. Kelleher said.

This study was published Feb. 3 in the Cochrane Library.

Ireland's Health Research Board and University College funded this research. Dr. Kelleher and colleagues disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 4, 2016